Ritz Golden Eagle SD Express Card Review: It’s Worse Than We Thought

Ritz Gear read my story about the $300 SD Express card and asked me to try it. In an effort to demonstrate its value, Ritz Gear included an SD Express reader. I’m at a loss. This is far worse than I thought.

I beat the “Beware of SD Express” drum more often than. It’s not a topic that is particularly popular. This is just memory cards. In this instance, we are referring to a format that is not supported at the moment. Why is it important?

It matters because it has a surprising number people who believe it is a good format, despite some issues surely being ironed out over the time (spoiler: they won’t). The fact that no camera manufacturer has agreed to the specification, and that some laptops claim support, makes it very misleading. SD Express will not work in non-SD Express devices faster than UHS-1. It doesn’t matter if that’s true: I will be corrected without fail.

Consumers are also often terribly ignorant about what to look for in a memory-card. A box will have specifications and they’ll assume that everything is fine. Multiple industry experts have confirmed that SD Express is a dead format.

Ritz Gear Golden Eagle Review

But, hey, I’m willing and able to make mistakes. I am more than happy to try a product and see how it works. Ritz Gear offered to test its $300 SD Express card, and SD Express reader. I was excited. It’s a pleasure to try it out and to see if it can deliver the transfer speeds promised. It’s not uncommon to see CFexpress cards transfer as fast as Ritz Gear claims.

But, I was in for a surprise. This card would have very limited utility, even if it worked as advertised. It doesn’t. Not even close. It’s not even the same area code, ballpark, or continent.

Speed Test – Read/Write

Before I share the results, let me first outline my expectations for the card. Ritz Gear claims this card can read at up to 820 Mb/s and write at 500 Mb/s, as stated on the box. That’s fast. It is faster than anyone could need for an SD format card. Although I have explained why it doesn’t work with a card rated V30, I am willing to give it the benefit.

See, SD Express is not supported by any camera. I concluded that the speed promises on the packaging were only for SD Express cards and that V30 was due to Ritz Gear knowing that no camera can use the card at speeds higher than UHSI speeds. V30 thus becomes the cap, despite the fact that there may be a ceiling.

Before I tried it, I assumed that I would get some amazing speed results from Blackmagic’s Disk Speed Test Tool but not much from the card when I put it in a camera.

I was pleasantly surprised by what actually happened.

Here is the result of a ProGrade Digital SD Card reader that supports UHSII speeds. To verify that SD Express cannot operate at speeds faster than UHS-1 speeds, I tried the Golden Eagle card first.

Ritz Gear Golden Eagle Review

Verified. It is not as fast as I expected.

Then I switched it with the SD Express card reader Ritz Gear gave me. Note that I used 100% Ritz Gear equipment: The reader, card, and cable were all provided. This test was done on the top-of-the line Macbook Pro with M1Max:

Ritz Gear Golden Eagle Review

These are terrible results. Although I did witness write speeds exceeding 60 MB/s during the test, it never reached sustained speeds and dropped to below 2 MB/s after it was done.

I used a high-performance Sony SD Card to test the reader’s performance. The Ritz box claims that it is backward compatible with UHSI and UHSII SD cards.

Ritz Gear Golden Eagle Review

This doesn’t seem like UHSII support to my eyes.

Real World Use Test

It was a new experience to me to evaluate a memory card that is inconsistent in performance. I wanted to see how long the card would sustain 4K video from a Canon EOS R5 camera. Then, I also wanted to test how long it would take for footage from the card to be transferred onto a computer using both the 4K video recording.

This would be compared to the time it would take to complete the same task with a regular UHS-II card, namely a Sony V90SD Card via a ProGrade Digital UHS-II reader.

In-Camera Test

Here is where things start to get confusing. The Golden Eagle performed admirably in the first recording session, which was the first time any data had been written to the card. My EOS R5 was set up to record at normal (4K) resolution (3,840×2,160) and 24 frames per second. It was quite surprising to discover that the camera managed to record for 34 minutes uninterrupted, before it gave a warning about the card’s speed.

This is a good result. I started to question the results of previous tests and start to soften my opinions about the card. Maybe it wasn’t as bad as I thought. Maybe I was too harsh with it. It didn’t last very long.

The card failed to record at the same settings for longer than 10 seconds in subsequent tests. It couldn’t record at 4K in High quality for more than four seconds. When I tried to record a 4K video at 60 frames per sec, it crashed in three seconds.

This is a real head-scratcher

This product is completely unintelligible. I shared the data from our tests with an industry expert, and he was equally confused. Although he wasn’t as familiar with SD Express specifications because no camera manufacturer had expressed any interest in it, he couldn’t explain why the card behaved the same way in the R5.

Ritz Gear Golden Eagle Review

It is not unusual for an older card that has been used a lot to have speed issues. Card wear is a sign of how much it has been used. It was unimaginable to observe this kind of reaction in just an hour of back-to-back testing of a brand-new card.

This was before we even got to the fact that the 820 MB/s speed promised is completely incongruent with the V30 specification on the box.

Ritz Gear Golden Eagle Review

So I was completely confused and reached out to Ritz Gear for an explanation. It turns out that there is an explanation, but not the one I expected.

“Our card uses a burst mode design,” Ritz Gear says. It will perform at the highest level of performance when it reaches 1/8 capacity. It will then drop to the sustained mode performance for the remaining capacity. For a 512GB card the 64GB first will give the user fast performance. It will perform at a lower speed for the remaining 448GB.

This was the first time I heard it. As a design choice, I have never heard of a card that gets worse as it fills. It works exactly as it should (perhaps even worse since I had to fill only 32.8GB before I noticed the throttle) and it doesn’t show up in speed tests.

Computer Transfer Times

This 34-minute video clip that I recorded on the R5 could be used to gauge actual transfer times. It took 3 minutes and 37 seconds for that file to be transferred from the Golden Eagle card to the Ritz Gear Express card reader.

A Sony UHS-II V90 V90 SD card was capable of transferring the same video file through a ProGrade card reader in just one minute and 57 seconds. SD Express is supposed be much faster than SD UHS II.

It’s worse than we imagined

It is absurd for a card that claims 500 MB/s write speed but certifies as V30. This alone should be enough to alert you that something is seriously wrong. However, I know from personal experience that V30 is a confusing acronym. This will be overlooked in favor flashy promises of speed.

This is the worst part of this card. The average photographer won’t have to deal with many of the problems that make the Golden Eagle expensive. It will work fine if you only take photos. You won’t even know that it cost $250. (The card has already dropped $50 since my first story). This is a total of $50 in performance. UHS-I256GB cards are still quite expensive.

Ritz Gear Golden Eagle Review

Although I wasn’t going to recommend the card to anyone who wanted it to work with any camera on sale, I expected it to perform well when used in the right environment, an SD Express card and an SD Express reader. It can’t do that, according to my tests.

Ritz Gear provided me with results from a test performed by another client through a computer. These results are transparent. Although I cannot explain why there was a difference in performance between a USB-C reader on Macs and PCs, you can trust these secondhand results.

Ritz Gear Golden Eagle Review

I cannot say anything except that I was unable to reproduce them. For the record, the reader explicitly supports Mac OS so it should not be surprising that there is a discrepancy.

All of this is true even though Ritz Gear claims the card will have “low” performance at 7/8 of its capacity. It’s madness!

This is the most important thing: the card will not, in any circumstance, deliver anything even close to what it promises when it comes time to use it with a camera.

It just won’t. It is not only proven by my testing, but also the SD Express specification. This is what I have said before, and it will be repeated again: SD Express can only handle UHS-I speeds in non-SD Express ports. This is every SD card slot-equipped camera ever produced. This $250 card is an additional $200 that you can spend for no other reason than to buy.

What are the Alternatives?

Any UHSII or UHSI-I SD card manufactured by a trusted brand can be used as an alternative. SanDisk sells a $50 UHS-I card with 256GB storage that will perform as well as the Golden Eagle in the best conditions. ProGrade Digital Cobalt cards offer more speed. The entire ProGrade Digital Cobalt line, from V30 to V90, is a great buy. ProGrade cards cost just $10 less than the Ritz SD Express for the same 256GB storage and V90 performance.

Should You Buy It?

No. Never. This card should never be purchased. This card is a huge waste of money.

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